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Why Does My Dryer Have a Burning Smell?

Burning smells can be incredibly alarming, especially from something that produces as much heat and uses as much energy as a drying machine. Despite that, burning smells aren't all that uncommon in dryers and can have very mundane causes. Still, any burning smell coming from your dryer needs to be thoroughly investigated and safely dealt with considering almost 3,000 fires a year are started from a clothes dryer.

You won't see smoke with a dryer's burning smell. But you should stop using the dryer immediately when you detect a burning odor. Because while most causes are common and relatively harmless, some can be serious and require immediate professional attention to ensure it is correctly and safely handled.

The stains in your clothes

One common cause of burning smells in dryers is what's in the clothes you're drying. Not all stains can be broken down and removed by detergent. Common stains that detergent alone can't handle are gasoline, paint thinner, mineral spirits, and certain types of oils. When these are left on clothes and go into the dryer, they start heating up, producing the burning odor you're smelling. You should look into this quickly if you suspect it's the solvents in your clothes since many of these materials are flammable. It's best to dry clothes stained with such substances on a line rather than in a dryer.

A new dryer

The smell could also simply be that new dryer smell. New dryers, like anything, have some unusual smells and one of those could be the burning smell you're detecting. Many fresh off the line dryers still have small amounts of oil or other coatings that can release certain fumes during use. If this happens, run your dryer a few times without clothes and open the windows to give it time to work through the leftover residue. If it resolves after a cycle or two, you should be good.

Clogged lint trap

Perhaps the biggest fire hazard in the laundry room is the lint trap. This piece of the dryer, usually a flat film that comes out of a slot, is designed to capture lint and other debris that comes off clothes and prevent it from both tumbling around in the dryer and heading into the dryer's air vents. If this screen is allowed to build up with unchecked amounts of lint and other materials while being blasted with the dryer's hot air, it can become a fire hazard and burn.

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